Judging by all the quotes plastered across the cover of the horror film Under the Bed, audiences are going to be expecting a whole lot more than they’re gonna get. Working with a story that seems ripped out of Monsters, Inc. mixed with an Are You Afraid of the Dark? vibe, director Steven C. Miller tries to shed new light on childhood fears. Or is it the strange bright lights emanating from above doorframes as if the house was built with street lights inside it.
Under the Bed introduces us to Neal (Jonny Weston) who has just come home from his aunt’s house after living there for two years. Hostility is at an all time high, especially between Neal and his dad, Terry (Peter Holden), and it bleeds into the homecoming his new stepmom Angela (Musetta Vander) threw for him. It doesn’t help that the only two people even remotely interested in his return are the neighbor hottie, Cara (Kelcie Stranahan), and Neal’s younger brother, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith). Neal isn’t happy to be coming home to a new stepmom, Angela (Musetta Vander), and looks as if he’s ready to get into a fistfight with the house itself. Neal finds out that Paulie has been sleeping in his old room, but turns out that Paulie hasn’t been doing much sleeping at all. Something is trying to get him from under the bed, and it sure seems to be a lot louder with Neal back at home.
There’s lots of backstory in Eric Stolze’s (not Stoltz, mind you) scattershot screenplay, but we don’t get much of it until the last minute — or when it provides a necessary plot point. Director Miller uses lots of good old-fashioned practical effects, which are put to great use. But the finale features lots of crap CGI that ruins its intended effect. Weston keeps being likable enough (I also didn’t mind him in Chasing Mavericks) and Griffith makes them seem like actual siblings. Vander does her best to keep her South African accent in check, while Holden can’t find the right mix of concerned, frustrated, and outraged.
As for those damn street lights that seem to be fixed above the bedroom doors, it’s almost as if Miller could have used Christian Bale roaming the set to get after cinematographer Joseph White who films every dark scene with bright as day back lighting. The gore effects show up way too late in the film and seem obligatory, as if Miller just wasn’t content with anything less than an R rating. But there’s far worse horror films being released almost every week. It’s just such a shame that Under the Bed is more laughably bad than actually scary. Under the Bed is available on DVD and Blu-ray July 30, but is available via VOD and in select theaters right now.